Many spells in DnD 4e take a Standard action to cast, and then have a Sustain Minor for additional effects (e.g. Crown of Madness, Bigby's Icy Grasp). Is it possible to cast the spell as a Standard action and then immediately use your Minor action to gain the Sustain effect?

This is especially important for some skills like Crown of Madness. Crown of Madness is a daily attack power. On a hit, it does only slightly more damage than an at-will power. However, its sustain minor effect is incredibly powerful - it allows you to force the target to make a melee basic attack against one of their allies. Because that effect ends on save, there's a 55% chance that it will end before your next turn. If you can't use the sustain minor right away, that means there's a high chance (even higher for solo monsters) that a level 5 daily attack spell does nothing more than 2d6 damage to a single target. However, if you are guaranteed at least one use of the forced attack on hit, Crown of Madness becomes much more viable.


2 Answers 2



The Player's Handbook on Sustained Durations, in part, says, "Starting on the turn after you create an effect, you sustain the effect by taking the indicated action: a standard action, a move action, or a minor action. (You can sustain an effect once per turn.)" (278). Likewise, the Rules Compendium on Sustain, in part, says more succinctly, "The creature cannot take this sustaining action until its turn after it uses the power and can take the action no more than once per round" (97).

So, yeah, unless a game element makes an exception (and I welcome comments offering examples), you just can't sustain on the turn you activate.

…But that's okay here

The Player's Handbook on Saving Throws, in part, says, "End of Turn: At the end of your turn, you make a saving throw against each effect on you that a save can end" (279). The Rules Compendium on When to Make Saving Throws rephrases but doesn't change this: "If a creature is subject to an effect that a save can end, the creature makes a saving throw against that effect at the end of each of its turns" (228).

The Sustain Minor entry of the power crown of madness (PH 134) says, "The target makes a melee basic attack against one of its adjacent allies of your choice (save ends)." However, until the PC ("crowner") sustains the power, the foe ("crownee") makes no saving throws against it. To summarize:

  • Round 1: On the crowner's turn, the crowner uses the crown of madness power. On the crownee's turn, the crownee takes its turn normally.
  • Round 2+: The crowner sustains the crown of madness power and—still on the crowner's turn—the crownee makes an attack against its ally. The crownee takes its turn normally, but, at the end of the crownee's own turn, the crownee makes a saving throw against the crown of madness power's Sustain Minor effect.

Success on the saving throw means that the Sustain Minor effect of the crown of madness power ends, and failure means that the crowner on the crowner's next turn can Sustain Minor again, causing the crownee again to attack its ally. This continues until the crowner opts not to sustain or until the crownee succeeds on the saving throw.

In short, the crown of madness power always deals damage (even if it's half on a miss), and, if it's sustained, always makes the foe attack a friend (within the effect's guidelines, of course). That said, while still not as good as it could be, I think it's at least as good as you thought it should be.


No, you cannot

This is on page 278, PHB, under DURATIONS:

Sustained Durations: An effect that has a “sustain standard,” a “sustain move,” or a “sustain minor” duration lasts as long as you sustain it. Starting on the turn after you create an effect, you sustain the effect by taking the indicated action: a standard action, a move action, or a minor action. (You can sustain an effect once per turn.)

You can only start to sustain the effect the turn after you create the effect.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In light of this, can this answer also assess the efficacy of the crown of madness power? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 27 at 21:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I never played with Crown of Madness in 4e. In 5e it pretty much sucks because the target also can move out of reach. My naive assement is that it also could do that in 4e before you get to sustain, so its immaterial if they even save, it plainly sucks in most cases. But I am not too confident if my assessment here is right... also may depend on how the DM runs the monsters. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 27 at 22:10

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